Rock Bridge State Park hosts event to raise awareness of endangered bats

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | 6:35 p.m. CDT; updated 9:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 12, 2012

COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge State Park will be hosting a family-friendly event this weekend to bring attention to the endangered Grey Bats that live in the park. 

Beginning at 7:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the park office, participants can enjoy an educational presentation about these and other bats. After the presentation, families can play a game together to learn even more about bats. Roxie Campbell, a park naturalist at Rock Bridge, will lead the event.

As the park gets dark, Campbell will lead the group to Devil's Icebox to watch the bats fly out of the cave. This will be followed by a tour of Connor's Cave.

Campbell suggested families bring flashlights for each family member and wear closed-toe shoes they don't mind getting wet, as Connor's Cave has a creek running through it.

The Grey Bat is an endangered species that calls the caves at Rock Bridge home from April to September. During their flights at night, the bats help to control the insect population. One of the bats' meals includes the Corn Earworm, a type of moth. By eating just one female moth, a bat prevents her from laying 2,000 eggs, which turn into corn-munching larvae, Campbell said.

White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that has been killing off large numbers of bats across the U.S. since 2006, will also be discussed, though there are no signs of the fungus on Rock Bridge's bats.

Campbell helps host the program every year to bring awareness to the native animals.

"Many people have never seen a wild bat," she said. "It's a rare opportunity to see an endangered species." 

Those interested must register by calling449-7400. The program is free, and there are plenty of spots open. The same program will be offered again Aug. 17 and 18.

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.

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